The Journal to Stella, by Jonathan Swift

Letter 21.

London, April 14, 1711.

Remember, sirrahs, that there are but nine days between the dates of my two former letters. I sent away my twentieth this moment, and now am writing on like a fish, as if nothing was done. But there was a cause for my hasting away the last, for fear it should not come time enough before a new quarter began. I told you where I dined to-day; but forgot to tell you what I believe, that Mr. Harley will be Lord Treasurer in a short time, and other great removes and promotions made. This is my thought, etc.

15. I was this morning with Mr. Secretary, and he is grown pretty well. I dined with him to-day, and drank some of that wine which the Duke of Tuscany used to send to Sir William Temple:1 he always sends some to the chief Ministers. I liked it mightily, but he does not; and he ordered his butler to send me a chest of it to-morrow. Would to God MD had it! The Queen is well again, and was at chapel to-day, etc.

16. I went with Ford into the City to-day, and dined with Stratford, and drank Tokay, and then we went to the auction; but I did not lay out above twelve shillings. My head is a little out of order to-night, though no formal fit. My Lord Keeper has sent to invite me to dinner to-morrow, and you’ll dine better with the Dean; and God bless you. I forgot to tell you that yesterday was sent me a Narrative printed, with all the circumstances of Mr. Harley’s stabbing. I had not time to do it myself; so I sent my hints to the author of the Atalantis,2 and she has cooked it into a sixpenny pamphlet, in her own style, only the first page is left as I was beginning it. But I was afraid of disobliging Mr. Harley or Mr. St. John in one critical point about it, and so would not do it myself. It is worth your reading, for the circumstances are all true. My chest of Florence was sent me this morning, and cost me seven and sixpence to two servants. I would give two guineas you had it, etc.

17. I was so out of order with my head this morning, that I was going to send my excuses to my Lord Keeper; but however I got up at eleven, and walked there after two, and stayed till eight. There was Sir Thomas Mansel, Prior, George Granville, and Mr. Caesar,3 and we were very merry. My head is still wrong, but I have had no formal fit, only I totter a little. I have left off snuff altogether. I have a noble roll of tobacco for grating, very good. Shall I send it to MD, if she likes that sort? My Lord Keeper and our this day’s company are to dine on Saturday with George Granville, and to-morrow I dine with Lord Anglesea.

18. Did you ever see such a blundering goosecap as Presto? I saw the number 21 at top, and so I went on as if it were the day of the month, whereas this is but Wednesday the 18th. How shall I do to blot and alter them? I have made a shift to do it behind, but it is a great botch. I dined with Lord Anglesea to-day, but did not go to the House of Commons about the yarn; my head was not well enough. I know not what is the matter; it has never been thus before: two days together giddy from morning till night, but not with any violence or pain; and I totter a little, but can make shift to walk. I doubt I must fall to my pills again: I think of going into the country a little way. I tell you what you must do henceforward: you must enclose your letter in a fair half-sheet of paper, and direct the outside “To Erasmus Lewis, Esquire, at my Lord Dartmouth’s office at Whitehall”: for I never go to the Coffee-house, and they will grudge to take in my letters. I forgot to tell you that your mother was to see me this morning, and brought me a flask of sweet-water for a present, admirable for my head; but I shall not smell to it. She is going to Sheen, with Lady Giffard: she would fain send your papers over to you, or give them to me. Say what you would have done, and it shall be done; because I love Stella, and she is a good daughter, they say, and so is Dingley.

19. This morning General Webb was to give me a visit: he goes with a crutch and stick, yet was forced to come up two pair of stairs. I promised to dine with him, but afterwards sent my excuses, and dined privately in my friend Lewis’s lodgings at Whitehall, with whom I had much business to talk of, relating to the public and myself. Little Harrison the Tatler goes to-morrow to the secretaryship I got him at the Hague, and Mr. St. John has made him a present of fifty guineas to bear his charges. An’t I a good friend? Why are not you a young fellow, that I might prefer you? I had a letter from Bernage from Kinsale: he tells me his commission for captain-lieutenant was ready for him at his arrival: so there are two jackanapeses I have done with. My head is something better this evening, though not well.

20. I was this morning with Mr. Secretary, whose packets were just come in, and among them a letter from Lord Peterborow to me: he writes so well, I have no mind to answer him, and so kind, that I must answer him. The Emperor’s4 death must, I think, cause great alterations in Europe, and, I believe, will hasten a peace. We reckon our King Charles will be chosen Emperor, and the Duke of Savoy set up for Spain; but I believe he will make nothing of it. Dr. Freind and I dined in the City at a printer’s, and it has cost me two shillings in coach-hire, and a great deal more this week and month, which has been almost all rain, with now and then sunshine, and is the truest April that I have known these many years. The lime-trees in the Park are all out in leaves, though not large leaves yet. Wise people are going into the country; but many think the Parliament can hardly be up these six weeks. Mr. Harley was with the Queen on Tuesday. I believe certainly he will be Lord Treasurer: I have not seen him this week.

21. Morning. Lord Keeper, and I, and Prior, and Sir Thomas Mansel, have appointed to dine this day with George Granville. My head, I thank God, is better; but to be giddyish three or four days together mortified me. I take no snuff, and I will be very regular in eating little and the gentlest meats. How does poor Stella just now, with her deans and her Stoytes? Do they give you health for the money you lose at ombre, sirrah? What say you to that? Poor Dingley frets to see Stella lose that four and elevenpence, the other night. Let us rise. Morrow, sirrahs. I will rise, spite of your little teeth; good-morrow. — At night. O, faith, you are little dear saucyboxes. I was just going in the morning to tell you that I began to want a letter from MD, and in four minutes after Mr. Ford sends me one that he had picked up at St. James’s Coffee-house; for I go to no coffee-house at all. And, faith, I was glad at heart to see it, and to see Stella so brisk. O Lord, what pretending? Well, but I will not answer it yet; I’ll keep it for t’other side. Well, we dined to-day according to appointment: Lord Keeper went away at near eight, I at eight, and I believe the rest will be fairly fuddled; for young Harcourt,5 Lord Keeper’s son, began to prattle before I came away. It will not do with Prior’s lean carcass. I drink little, miss my glass often, put water in my wine, and go away before the rest, which I take to be a good receipt for sobriety. Let us put it into rhyme, and so make a proverb —

Drink little at a time;
Put water with your wine;
Miss your glass when you can;
And go off the first man.

God be thanked, I am much better than I was, though something of a totterer. I ate but little to-day, and of the gentlest meat. I refused ham and pigeons, pease-soup, stewed beef, cold salmon, because they were too strong. I take no snuff at all, but some herb snuff prescribed by Dr. Radcliffe.

Go to your deans,
You couple of queans.

I believe I said that already. What care I? what cares Presto?

22. Morning. I must rise and go to the Secretary’s. Mr. Harley has been out of town this week to refresh himself before he comes into Parliament. Oh, but I must rise, so there is no more to be said; and so morrow, sirrahs both. — Night. I dined to-day with the Secretary, who has engaged me for every Sunday; and I was an hour with him this morning deep in politics, where I told him the objections of the October Club, and he answered all except one, that no inquiries are made into past mismanagement. But indeed I believe they are not yet able to make any: the late Ministry were too cunning in their rogueries, and fenced themselves with an Act of general pardon. I believe Mr. Harley must be Lord Treasurer; yet he makes one difficulty which is hard to answer: he must be made a lord, and his estate is not large enough, and he is too generous to make it larger; and if the Ministry should change soon by any accident, he will be left in the suds. Another difficulty is, that if he be made a peer, they will want him prodigiously in the House of Commons, of which he is the great mover, and after him the Secretary, and hardly any else of weight. Two shillings more to-day for coach and chair. I shall be ruined.

23. So you expect an answer to your letter, do you so? Yes, yes, you shall have an answer, you shall, young women. I made a good pun on Saturday to my Lord Keeper. After dinner we had coarse Doiley napkins,6 fringed at each end, upon the table, to drink with: my Lord Keeper spread one of them between him and Mr. Prior; I told him I was glad to see there was such a fringeship [friendship] between Mr. Prior and his lordship. Prior swore it was the worst he ever heard: I said I thought so too; but at the same time I thought it was most like one of Stella’s that ever I heard. I dined to-day with Lord Mountjoy, and this evening saw the Venetian Ambassador7 coming from his first public audience. His coach was the most monstrous, huge, fine, rich gilt thing that ever I saw. I loitered this evening, and came home late.

24. I was this morning to visit the Duchess of Ormond,8 who has long desired it, or threatened she would not let me visit her daughters. I sat an hour with her, and we were good company, when in came the Countess of Bellamont,9 with a pox. I went out, and we did not know one another; yet hearing me named, she asked, “What, is that Dr. Swift?” said she and I were very well acquainted, and fell a railing at me without mercy, as a lady told me that was there; yet I never was but once in the company of that drab of a Countess. Sir Andrew Fountaine and I dined with my neighbour Van. I design in two days, if possible, to go lodge at Chelsea for the air, and put myself under a necessity of walking to and from London every day. I writ this post to the Bishop of Clogher a long politic letter, to entertain him. I am to buy statues and harnese10 for them, with a vengeance. I have packed and sealed up MD’s twelve letters against I go to Chelsea. I have put the last commissions of MD in my account-book; but if there be any former ones, I have forgot them. I have Dingley’s pocket-book down, and Stella’s green silk apron, and the pound of tea; pray send me word if you have any other, and down they shall go. I will not answer your letter yet, saucy boxes. You are with the Dean just now, Madam Stella, losing your money. Why do not you name what number you have received? You say you have received my letters, but do not tell the number.

25. I was this day dining in the City with very insignificant, low, and scurvy company. I had a letter from the Archbishop of Dublin, with a long denial of the report raised on him,11 which yet has been since assured to me from those who say they have it from the first hand; but I cannot believe them. I will show it to the Secretary to-morrow. I will not answer yours till I get to Chelsea.

26. Chelsea. I have sent two boxes of lumber to my friend Darteneuf’s house, and my chest of Florence and other things to Mrs. Vanhomrigb, where I dined to-day. I was this morning with the Secretary, and showed him the Archbishop’s letter, and convinced him of his Grace’s innocence, and I will do the same to Mr. Harley. I got here in the stage-coach with Patrick and my portmanteau for sixpence, and pay six shillings a week for one silly room with confounded coarse sheets.12 We have had such a horrible deal of rain, that there is no walking to London, and I must go as I came until it mends; and besides the whelp has taken my lodging as far from London as this town could afford, at least half a mile farther than he need; but I must be content. The best is, I lodge just over against Dr. Atterbury’s house, and yet perhaps I shall not like the place the better for that. Well, I will stay till to-morrow before I answer your letter; and you must suppose me always writing at Chelsea from henceforward, till I alter, and say London. This letter goes on Saturday, which will be just a fortnight; so go and cheat Goody Stoyte, etc.

27. Do you know that I fear my whole chest of Florence is turned sour, at least the two first flasks were so, and hardly drinkable. How plaguy unfortunate am I! and the Secretary’s own is the best I ever tasted; and I must not tell him, but be as thankful as if it were the best in Christendom. I went to town in the sixpenny stage to-day; and hearing Mr. Harley was not at home, I went to see him, because I knew by the message of his lying porter that he was at home. He was very well, and just going out, but made me promise to dine with him; and betwixt that and indeed strolling about, I lost four pound seven shillings at play — with a — a — a — bookseller, and got but about half a dozen books.13 I will buy no more books now, that’s certain. Well, I dined at Mr. Harley’s, came away at six, shifted my gown, cassock, and periwig, and walked hither to Chelsea, as I always design to do when it is fair. I am heartily sorry to find my friend the Secretary stand a little ticklish with the rest of the Ministry; there have been one or two disobliging things that have happened, too long to tell: and t’other day in Parliament, upon a debate of about thirty-five millions that have not been duly accounted for, Mr. Secretary, in his warmth of speech, and zeal for his friend Mr. Brydges,14 on whom part of the blame was falling, said he did not know that either Mr. Brydges or the late Ministry were at all to blame in this matter; which was very desperately spoken, and giving up the whole cause: for the chief quarrel against the late Ministry was the ill management of the treasure, and was more than all the rest together. I had heard of this matter: but Mr. Foley15 beginning to discourse to-day at table, without naming Mr. St. John, I turned to Mr. Harley, and said if the late Ministry were not to blame in that article, he (Mr. Harley) ought to lose his head for putting the Queen upon changing them. He made it a jest; but by some words dropped, I easily saw that they take things ill of Mr. St. John; and by some hints given me from another hand that I deal with, I am afraid the Secretary will not stand long. This is the fate of Courts. I will, if I meet Mr. St. John alone on Sunday, tell him my opinion, and beg him to set himself right, else the consequences may be very bad; for I see not how they can well want him neither, and he would make a troublesome enemy. But enough of politics.

28. Morning. I forgot to tell you that Mr. Harley asked me yesterday how he came to disoblige the Archbishop of Dublin. Upon which (having not his letter about me) I told him what the Bishop had written to me on that subject,16 and desired I might read him the letter some other time. But after all, from what I have heard from other hands, I am afraid the Archbishop is a little guilty. Here is one Brent Spencer, a brother of Mr. Proby’s,17 who affirms it, and says he has leave to do so from Charles Dering,18 who heard the words; and that Ingoldsby,19 abused the Archbishop, etc. Well, but now for your saucy letter: I have no room to answer it; O yes, enough on t’other side. Are you no sicker? Stella jeers Presto for not coming over by Christmas; but indeed Stella does not jeer, but reproach, poor poor Presto. And how can I come away and the First-Fruits not finished? I am of opinion the Duke of Ormond will do nothing in them before he goes, which will be in a fortnight, they say; and then they must fall to me to be done in his absence. No, indeed, I have nothing to print: you know they have printed the Miscellanies20 already. Are they on your side yet? If you have my snuff box, I will have your strong box. Hi, does Stella take snuff again? or is it only because it is a fine box? Not the Meddle, but the Medley,21 you fool. Yes, yes, a wretched thing, because it is against you Tories: now I think it very fine, and the Examiner a wretched thing. — Twist your mouth, sirrah. Guiscard, and what you will read in the Narrative,22 I ordered to be written, and nothing else. The Spectator is written by Steele, with Addison’s help: it is often very pretty. Yesterday it was made of a noble hint I gave him long ago for his Tatlers, about an Indian supposed to write his Travels into England.23 I repent he ever had it. I intended to have written a book on that subject. I believe he has spent it all in one paper, and all the under-hints there are mine too; but I never see him or Addison. The Queen is well, but I fear will be no long liver; for I am told she has sometimes the gout in her bowels (I hate the word bowels). My ears have been, these three months past, much better than any time these two years; but now they begin to be a little out of order again. My head is better, though not right; but I trust to air and walking. You have got my letter, but what number? I suppose 18. Well, my shin has been well this month. No, Mrs. Westley24 came away without her husband’s knowledge, while she was in the country: she has written to me for some tea. They lie; Mr. Harley’s wound was very terrible: he had convulsions, and very narrowly escaped. The bruise was nine times worse than the wound: he is weak still. Well, Brooks married; I know all that. I am sorry for Mrs. Walls’s eye: I hope ’tis better. O yes, you are great walkers: but I have heard them say, “Much talkers, little walkers”: and I believe I may apply the old proverb to you —

If you talked no more than you walked,
Those that think you wits would be baulked.

Yes, Stella shall have a large printed Bible: I have put it down among my commissions for MD. I am glad to hear you have taken the fancy of intending to read the Bible. Pox take the box; is not it come yet? This is trusting to your young fellows, young women; ’tis your fault: I thought you had such power with Sterne that he would fly over Mount Atlas to serve you. You say you are not splenetic; but if you be, faith, you will break poor Presto’s — I will not say the rest; but I vow to God, if I could decently come over now, I would, and leave all schemes of politics and ambition for ever. I have not the opportunities here of preserving my health by riding, etc., that I have in Ireland; and the want of health is a great cooler of making one’s court. You guess right about my being bit with a direction from Walls, and the letter from MD: I believe I described it in one of my last. This goes to-night; and I must now rise and walk to town, and walk back in the evening. God Almighty bless and preserve poor MD. Farewell.

O, faith, don’t think, saucy noses, that I’ll fill this third side: I can’t stay a letter above a fortnight: it must go then; and you would rather see a short one like this, than want it a week longer.

My humble service to the Dean, and Mrs. Walls, and good, kind, hearty Mrs. Stoyte, and honest Catherine.

1 In 1670 Temple thanked the Grand Duke of Tuscany for “an entire vintage of the finest wines of Italy” (Temple’s Works, 1814, ii. 155-56).

2 Mrs. Manley (see Letter 17, note 22).

3 Charles Caesar, M.P. for Hertford, was appointed Treasurer of the Navy in June 1711, in the room of Robert Walpole.

4 Joseph I. His successor was his brother Charles, the King of Spain recognised by England.

5 Simon Harcourt, M.P. for Wallingford. He married Elizabeth, sister of Sir John Evelyn, Bart., and died in 1720, aged thirty-five, before his father. He was secretary to the society of “Brothers,” wrote verses, and was a friend of the poets. His son Simon was created Earl Harcourt in 1749, and was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

6 Doiley, a seventeenth-century linen-draper — probably “Thomas Doyley, at the Nun, in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden,”— invented stuffs which “might at once be cheap and genteel” (Spectator, No. 283).

7 A special envoy. The Resident from Venice in 1710 was Signor Bianchi.

8 See Letter 17, note 5.

9 Nanfan Coote, second Earl of Bellamont, who died in 1708, married, in 1705, Lucia Anna, daughter of Henry de Nassau, Lord of Auverquerque, and sister of Henry, first Earl of Grantham. She died in 1744.

10 “Farnese” (Deane Swift).

11 See Letter 20, note 3.

12 Swift’s changes of residence during the period covered by the Journal were numerous. On Sept. 20, 1710, he moved from Pall Mall to Bury Street, “where I suppose I shall continue while in London.” But on Dec. 28 he went to new lodgings in St. Albans Street, Haymarket. On April 26, 1711, he moved to Chelsea, and from there to Suffolk Street, to be near the Vanhomrighs. He next moved to St. Martins Street, Leicester Fields; and a month later to Panton Street, Haymarket. In 1712 he lodged for a time at Kensington Gravel Pits.

13 At raffling for books.

14 James Brydges, Paymaster-General, and afterwards Duke of Chandos (see Letter 3, note 31).

15 Thomas Foley, M.P. for Worcestershire, was created Baron Foley in December 1711, and died in 1733.

16 See 25th April, 1711 and Letter 20, note 3.

17 See Letter 19, note 3.

18 Charles Dering, second son of Sir Edward Dering, Bart., M.P. for Kent, was Auditor of the Exchequer in Ireland, and M.P. for Carlingford.

19 See Letter 11, note 44.

20 See Letter 17, note 4.

21 A Whig paper, for the most part by Mainwaring and Oldmixon, in opposition to the Examiner. It appeared weekly from October 1710 to August 1711.

22 See Letter 17, note 22.

23 See Spectator, No. 50, by Addison.

24 In all probability a mistake for “Wesley” (see Letter 1, note 12).

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00